“Boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all areas of your life.”
(Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, front flap, 1992).
External Resistance to Boundaries
“The most common resistance one gets from the outside is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort” (p 241).
First, you need to understand that it is the angry person who has the character fault, not the boundary setter. Maintaining your boundaries will help the angry person learn to respect other people. Second, if you stay separate from the person’s anger, not allowing yourself to get angry or giving up your boundaries, you will allow the other person to sit with their emotions rather than transfer their emotions onto you. Third, you need to be prepared to use physical distance and other limiting factors as consequences to maintain your boundaries and ensure the angry person to learn to respect you and your boundaries. “Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you” (p 243). Even though this may be difficult, it may be the best long-term result.
People who say things intended to produce guilt are attempting to control you. “They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time or resources, about growing up and separating from your parents, or about having a life separate” from them (p 244).
You can deal with these guilt messages by recognizing them as internal issues projected at you. Limits and boundaries enable the other person to sit with their own anger, hurt, or sorrow. If you notice the feeling of guilt arising, don’t blame them for “making you feel guilty”. Once you start blaming them for “making you” feel a certain way you are giving them power over you. Instead, recognize your internal emotional struggle, hold to your boundaries, and step back mentally to see how they are attempting to manipulate you emotionally and that you do not need to give them that power over you. Also, do not explain or justify your boundaries to the one attempting to induce guilt – you do not owe them an explanation and if you offer one you fall into their guild trap.
Consequences and Countermoves
Sometimes people counter our boundaries with their own consequences in order to try to keep you under their control. Be sure to count the cost and then consider if the cost is worth the loss of your “self”. If you suffer loss, be proactive to make up for what you lose – this is one of the great reasons to ensure you have a healthy support group in your life.
Pain of Others
When we set boundaries, sometime other people feel hurt. If you care for them, it can be difficult for you to watch; but it is important for you and them that you maintain your boundaries. Sometimes those who hurt then blame you for the hurt – but you must remember that they are the ones with the character problem. “Listen to the nature of other people’s complaints; if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them” (p 250). In confronting them in a healthy way, you will learn how to not own the pain of another person and help that other person own and healthily deal with their own emotions and thoughts.
For more on establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.